Catnip provides alternative to cat naps by Bob Karolevitz What is it in catnip that makes cats go bonkers?
I became especially curious when I saw Bailey, one of Phyllis�s indoor pets, up on the kitchen table (where she definitely wasn�t supposed to be) writhing around an unopened package of cat toys.
(The toys, incidentally, were for daughter Jill�s new kitten Wally.)
�Why is she acting like that?� I wanted to know.
Phyllis, the cat-lover, said something like �Isn�t that cute?� � and then she explained that the toys probably were treated with that magic substance which makes cats go a little crazy.
�Do you mean to tell me that she can smell the stuff through the plastic wrapping?� I asked.
�Yes,� was the reply I got, as I sniffed the package which I snatched way from the startled Bailey.
�Well, I don�t smell anything!� I said suspiciously, and she answered:
�Of course not, silly. Catnip is meant for cats� noses only.�
�It�s feline ecstasy, that�s what it is,� I exclaimed. �They probably should make something like that for people and then Viagra sales would tumble like dot.com stocks.�
Needless to say, she didn�t dignify that last remark with her usual quick response.
That�s when I got eager to learn more about catnip, so I went to my trusty encyclopedia for some answers.
Next I tried my dictionary. It called it a member of the mint family �with downy leaves and spikes of bluish flowers.� �Cats are fond of its odor,� it said.
I was stumped until I thought of 10-year-old grandson Sam and the Internet. �Sure, Grandpa,� he said helpfully. �How much do you need?�
Presto! He went to the keyboard and almost instantly � about as fast as I could open my encyclopedia � he had a Web page on the subject. The print-out he produced told me more than I ever wanted to know.
(Maybe I should get a computer after all!)
I learned that the plant (Nepatia catari) is a native of North America, that its fresh leaves have a mint-like scent and, when dry, they smell like alfalfa. More important, though, I read about the peculiar �catnip response.�
�Your cat is a drug junkie!� I told Phyllis. �It�s responding to a chemical called nepetalactone, which is sort of a hallucinogen.�
Thanks to my untiring research � and Sam � I finally found out what caused Bailey to act so strange.
The Web page � courtesy of the Tomball Veterinary Clinic � also said that cat owners get �great pleasure� in seeing their pets go nuts over the small. Me? I think it�s sort of Freudian myself.
Be that as it may, though, catnip � which they say isn�t toxic to animals � provides cats like Bailey (an odd name for a female) with something to do besides napping. It also permits Phyllis to say:
�Isn�t that cute!?�
� 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz